A group of 21 former asbestos sprayers was studied with high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), and the findings were compared with radiographic, exposure and lung function variables. HRCT was superior to plain radiography in detecting parenchymal and pleural changes. It showed changes indicative of lung fibrosis, especially septal lines and parenchymal bands, in 9 of the 12 subjects (75%) with a plain radiographic category of 0/0 in the International Labour Office (ILO) 1980 classification of radiographs of pneumoconioses. The HRCT findings were classified according to a method developed by the authors, and an HRCT parenchymal score was calculated. The HRCT revealed pleural plaques in 19 of the 21 (90%) asbestos sprayers, whereas plain radiography detected pleural plaques in only 5 (24%) sprayers. Changes in the visceral pleura were detected twice as often with HRCT as with plain radiography. In the group without radiographic evidence of lung fibrosis (ILO < 1/0) and without evidence of emphysema in either the radiographs or the HRCT examination, there was a correlation between the HRCT parenchymal score and diffusion capacity (r = -0.64, P = 0.03) and total lung capacity (r = -0.61, P = 0.04). This finding indicates that parenchymal changes seen only with HRCT are of clinical importance. The study strongly suggests that for asbestos-exposed workers with an ILO classification of < 1/0 and functional impairment, an HRCT examination should always be considered.